Posted: Jul 31, 2013 8:00 AM
 
After signing up for a yoga studio membership this month, I decided to introduce my daughter to some of the things I was learning and practicing. What started as a fun post-class activity turned into a meaningful bonding ritual with my daughter. Through it, I'm gaining a deeper understanding of just how important body awareness and meditation exercises are — a gift for both of us.

In keeping with my summer bucket list this year, I signed up for a full month of unlimited yoga classes at a local studio a few weeks ago. I'm usually a mover when it comes to exercise, choosing pavement over treadmill to prevent boredom and entertaining myself with a frequently shifting playlist. So, I went in to this yoga thing expecting that I might get a little jittery — that maybe I wasn't cut out for the quiet and focus it required. What I didn't expect though was to be converted so quickly, won over by simple breathing techniques and peaceful mantras in a way that made me want to share them. And just like every trip I've taken to a beautiful place, I thought to myself, "I wish my kids were here. They would love this."

If yoga helps to alleviate big people stresses, imagine how powerful it could be for little stresses.

I'll admit, I'm no yoga expert. My mind trails off a lot and I'm still aware of every itch, every craving, every smell and every creak in the floor that interrupts my breathing. But it's how I return back to that place within myself — guided by my own inner dialogue and breath — and how I'm suddenly more aware of my body and its amazing capabilities that make me think my kids could benefit from this too. If yoga helps to alleviate big people stresses, imagine how powerful it could be for little stresses. Like maybe with a little breathing and stretching, my daughter's issues with crooked sock seams will suddenly *Poof!* be gone.

I'm certainly not the first parent to discover this child yoga thing. Kids-only yoga studios like Yogi Beans and Karma Kids are popping up in New York City, and many adult studios are now offering kids-only classes. My yoga studio offers a child class geared to kids ages 4 to 8, but I figured I'd start Lainey off slowly and introduce some of the things I was learning at home. After my third class, I was eager to set up a mat in our living room, knowing she'd be tickled with the idea of yoga school — and that she was.

A rookie myself, I taught her the few positions with which I felt confident, modeling them while she eagerly drank up my instruction. She imitated each move, stretching her legs into a deep V for downward dog, arching her back for baby cobra and lining up her palms evenly for a nice table top, giggling when her hands slid across the sticky mat. "Am I doing it right?" she asked, "Like this?"

I was suddenly so aware of how she's grown. How tall those legs that were once curled inside me now stand, how sturdily that little body that once relied fully on my support now balances into an impressive sun salutation.

Spotting her wispy body into various stretches, I was suddenly so aware of how she's grown. How tall those legs that were once curled inside me now stand, how sturdily that little body that once relied fully on my support now balances into an impressive sun salutation.

"Wow!" I congratulated her, "You're really good at yoga. Look how strong you are. You balance better than I do!"

She proudly smiled and asked to learn more moves. Oh my little yogi, so thirsty for instruction.

My favorite part of our new hobby came when we put aside the tricky positions and I showed her how to relax completely loosey-goosey, arms stretched out like a starfish across her mat. "Close your eyes," I told her, "and breathe in through your nose and blow out through your mouth." I placed a lavender-scented beanbag across her eyes — the one I had to buy after my first class — and she smiled, sensing this was indeed an official class. The bean bag suddenly upped the ante.

And then I told her how strong her body was and how powerful her breath was. "Feel that breath go in and out? It has everything you need to be alive. No matter what, you can always breathe good things in and feel all that energy go into your body, down to your tippy toes, out through your fingers, keeping you strong and healthy."

Listening to myself pass down these magical nuggets of truth to my little girl, even if she didn't quite understand them, suddenly made those things more believable for myself.

Listening to myself pass down these magical nuggets of truth to my little girl, even if she didn't quite understand them, suddenly made those things more believable for myself.

I tried to remember meditations the yoga teachers guided us through and when I forgot, I simply tried to think of all the good things I want my kids to know — that they are special, that they are strong, that inside those little bodies is everything they need to face the world and do good and find peace. And so I whispered those things to my girl while she lay on her mat and breathed in and out and squinted her eyes to peek and, yes, sometimes giggled because it was kind of funny too.

While some may call it yoga, this new hobby of ours is really more of an opportunity to teach lessons we all aim to instill in our kids — an awareness of their strengths, an acceptance of their weaknesses and the incredible value of their bodies. We've moved on in the world of kids' yoga, now trying out new moves with the help of guided DVD instruction and adding silly sounds to our downward dog and cat cow.

But there's still this awesome thing — me and my girl, holding new poses, laughing through the awkward ones and learning together that no matter what may come, we can always just breathe.

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